June 17, 2024
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Renowned Posek Rav Rimon and Comedian Ashley Blaker Come Together for ‘Love and Laughter’ to Benefit Atufim

On Motzei Shabbat, December 16, The Jewish Center of Teaneck will be hosting a night of “Love and Laughter,” hosted by renowned posek Rav Yosef Zvi and British comedian Ashley Blaker.

Proceeds from the event will go to Atufim, an organization led by Rav Yosef Zvi Rimon, that supports the displaced communities in southern Israel. Atufim—which means “to embrace,’’ is also a play on the words “Otef Aza,” which are the communities that surround Gaza and were the hardest hit in the October 7 attacks.

The event was organized by Rabbi Daniel Fridman of the Jewish Center of Teaneck, who felt compelled to do something for the thousands of Israelis who have not only been displaced, but in some cases, lost everything they owned. Rabbi Fridman explained that the Rambam defines a war when the Jewish people have been attacked as a milchemet mitzvah, a war of obligation, which requires each member of the Jewish people to do all in their personal power to help the war effort, which may include providing critical assistance to those who have been most directly impacted.

Rav Rimon is one of the leading poskim in Israel today, and spends much of his days and nights answering some of the most complex shailas that have emerged as a result of the war in Israel. He is also renowned for his tremendous chesed and is no stranger to the needs that accompany communities who have been tragically displaced. “He’s a very distinctive rabbinic figure in the sense that he is so deeply involved in these chasadim and it really matches his level of Torah scholarship,” said Rabbi Fridman.

Rabbi Fridman, who knows Rav Rimon from his days studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion, explained: “After the disengagement from Gush Katif, Rav Rimon took the lead to help the former residents become resettled and totally immersed himself in that.

“The Rambam says that helping one person find a job is the highest level of tzedaka. But Rav Rimon and his team at Atufim are doing this on a mass scale.” It’s going to take the government a very long time to help people find employment. Helping thousands of people find jobs is a critical part of not only their financial well-being but their overall well-being.

Following the disengagement from Gush Katif, 85% of its former residents found themselves unemployed. Rav Rimon went to visit the displaced residents, trying to help them in any way he could, from helping them organize their personal belongings to coming up with activities for the children to keep them occupied.

The worst part about the disengagement, he discovered, was the unemployment that accompanied the displacement. “Someone who is not working, especially after a trauma, is broken, and it’s harder for them to recover,” he explained.

Rav Rimon called on volunteers and started JobKatif, an organization dedicated to helping this population find jobs and transition to new careers. Rav Rimon recognized the complexity of this endeavor, especially because many of these people were in their 40s or older, and changing professions at that point in one’s life is considerably more challenging.

But in the end, Rav Rimon helped over 3,000 former Gush Katif residents find jobs and helped them open around 280 businesses. In 2008 he was awarded the President’s Prize for Volunteerism by President Shimon Peres for the critical success of JobKatif and continued to assist many other communities throughout the country that were in need of such action.

Immediately following the October 7 attacks, Rav Rimon recognized the severity of the situation in the south and established Atufim. Since then, more than 700 people have received job offers and more than 300 people have already started working again. But there are still thousands more who are out of work, and while some will need temporary employment to get them through this period, others will require more permanent employment solutions.

Rav Rimon says that it can take a very long time to help someone regain a career after a trauma. They require strength and often need help to see their capabilities and what the right paths are for them.

Inbar Gabai-Zada, who works with Rav Rimon and is director of development for Sulamot, an organization founded by Rav Rimon that works to make Torah more accessible for younger generations, explains that there are a few aspects to Atufim.

Besides the employment program, Atufim also runs a community resilience and rehabilitation program to help communities recover from devastating events by addressing different needs.

The program first addresses immediate financial needs such as assistance with mortgage payments or funds to help pay off debt that individuals have incurred as a result of displacement.

“We also brought in someone to create tailored programming to give resilience workshops, and provide residents with the tools they will need to rebuild their lives, not only as individuals and families, but also as an entire community.”

Part of that means facilitating the specific needs of the individual communities. “Every single community needs certain items in place in order to return home because without them, the residents of these communities are unwilling to return.”

Another need addressed by Atufim is about forging connections with global communities—and the upcoming event at the Teaneck Jewish Center will play a pivotal role in that aspect.

“It’s very important that these displaced individuals feel embraced by Am Yisrael, not just financially, but also through missions, joint programming, and just knowing that they are not weathering this terrible time alone but that we are in this together with them,” Rav Rimon said.

“This is the time that Am Yisrael needs to embrace each other, to be together, and it’s what gives us power. We know that unity is our secret to win.”

In the south there is a diverse mix of yishuvim, some more to the right, while many are staunchly secular. But because of Rav Rimon’s efforts and approach towards unity, he is able to connect and help with anyone regardless of their background. “That speaks to the strength that Rav Rimon’s programs have, not only in their efficiency and their professionalism, but also because it turns this unity into action and practicality,” Gabai-Zada said.

“It’s good for us to be together, and it’s something that we need to work on all the time, and now to help Am Yisrael to recover. When we do it together we succeed,” Rav Rimon said.

“I think we all recognize that a huge part of our response, spiritually, to this war is achdus,” Rabbi Fridman said. “The clear message is to come together, and that’s why doing this fundraiser in this way, with an unprecedented level of shul sponsorship from all over Bergen County … reflects that we understand the message, which is that we need to be together at this time. I think that’s really the most important thing.”

To register for this event or become a sponsor visit www.jcot.org

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